Friday, July 6

The Strength of The Sward

Immaculate grass at the start of the Championships
© Jon Buckle/AELTC
What a difference two weeks makes.

As you can see from the photos here, every game played on every court during the Championships takes its toll on the grass. From the pristine and immaculate lushness of the opening day, to the scuffed, worn and often barren soil - especially around the baselines - that we have as we approach finals weekend.

The grass planted has to survive in dry soil (despite what you may think with the numerous rain delays we have had this year). Expert research has again shown that a cut height of 8mm (since 1995) is the optimum for present day play and survival.

Courts are sown with 100 per cent Perennial Ryegrass (since 2001) to improve durability and strengthen the sward to withstand better the increasing wear of the modern game.

Independent expert research from The Sports Turf Research Institute in Yorkshire has proved that changing the grass seed mix to 100 per cent perennial ryegrass (previously 70 per cent rye/30 per cent creeping red fescue) would be the best way forward to combat wear and enhance court presentation and performance without affecting the perceived speed of the court.
Lines are freshened up every morning
© Neil Tingle/AELTC

Court maintenance
  • 1 ton of grass seed is used each year. 
  • Maximum of 3,000 gallons of water used during the Fortnight - weather permitting. 
  • All courts re-lined, rolled and mown daily during The Championships. 
  • Court wear, surface hardness and ball rebound are all measured daily. 
  • All courts renovated in September.
Lines and dimensions
  • Total area of grass on each of Centre and No.1 Courts is 41m x 22m. 
  • Singles Court is length 23.77m (78’) x width 8.23m (27’).
  • Doubles Court is length 23.77m (78’) x width 10.97m (36’).
  • Paint is not used to mark the lines on the court. A transfer wheel marker is used to apply a white compound (500 gallons used yearly) containing titanium dioxide to make it durable.
  • All the lines are 50mm wide, except the baselines, which are 100mm. 
Court covers 
  • All courts have been provided with covers since 1971. 
  • Centre Court’s cover weighs 1 ton and takes 17 people approx 22-28 seconds to cover the court. Made from a translucent material, the cover allows a greater amount of light to the grass. Air ventilation under the cover is aided by four large fans (two at either end). 
  • 160 Court coverers. 
  • Trained two weeks prior to The Championships – approx timings 22-28 seconds. 
  • Removing the umpire’s chair with umpire still sitting in it introduced in 2001. 
  • Centre/No.1 teams: 17 people to cover the court, two to remove the nets, two to remove umpire/linespersons chairs. 
  • Outer Courts teams: Courts 2, 3, 12 and 18 have 11 people, other courts have six people. 
  • Cover at Chair Umpire’s discretion. 
  • Referee inspects a court once the covers are taken off and before the court is dressed with the net etc.
  • Decision on timing of process made by the Head Groundsman or Referee.
Day 9 and the grass is looking more than a little battered.
© Tom Lovelock/AELTC
The perceived speed of a court is affected by a number of factors such as the general compacting of the soil over time, as well as the weather before and during the event.

The ball will seem heavier and slower on a cold damp day and conversely lighter and faster on a warm dry day. But the amount a ball bounces is largely determined by the soil, not the grass. The soil must be hard and dry to allow 13 days of play without damage to the court sub-surface.

To achieve the required surface of even consistency and hardness, the courts are rolled and covered to keep them dry and firm. Regular measurements are taken to monitor this.

There's a lot going on to make the courts playable. And this year, the groundstaff have just a few weeks to turn everything around before the Olympics come to SW19.

Good luck with that.

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